US

(New York)

There have been growing fears over the real estate market for the last couple of years, and now one corner of the market is in the middle of a growing apocalypse. Retail real estate is currently on trend to have by far the worst year in memory. Already in 2018, 77 million square feet of retail store space has been closed. In 2017, which was seen as the pinnacle of the collapse, 105m closed the entire year. The sector has been hit by the rise in ecommerce and changing shopping habits. Now landlords don’t even know what to do with all their space. They will likely “Try to re-let it as a gun range or a church—or it’s going to go back to being a cornfield”, says a head of real estate at a private equity firm. The US has 24 square feet of retail space per person, by far the highest in the world.


FINSUM: Not only do you have ecommerce as a threat, but consumer spending is starting to tighten as we near the end of this cycle. This is going to be a major bust.

(New York)

While the housing market has been doing well and credit markets still look solid on a fundamental basis, there is big trouble brewing in US housing. The proportion of highly indebted mortgage borrowers is surging. Fannie Mae recently increased the amount of total debt as a proportion of income it allows for federally-backed mortgages from 45% to 50%. Rising house prices and stagnant incomes mean that 1 in 5 mortgage borrowers now have 45% or more of their pre-tax income eaten up in debt every month. That is triple the same proportion of borrowers compared to 2016 and the first half of 2017.


FINSUM: The mortgage market has been running out of prime borrowers, and in response, the proportion of subprime borrowers seems to be rising, though this is being accommodated by increased federal support for such mortgages. Are we headed down the same road again?

(Washington)

There is a lot of rhetoric out there about how the labor market is extremely tight, which will push wages up and force the Fed to raise rates. According to Barron’s, if you really compare this year’s labor market data versus last year, it looks like there is an unemployment pool of at least around 1 million Americans that could re-enter the labor force. This group is often referred to as the “hidden unemployed”.


FINSUM: This means that there is actually more capacity for the labor market absorb jobs than is often reported, meaning there may not be as much upward pressure on wages, and therefore, rates, as expected.

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